Saturday, November 17, 2007

The Battle of the Valley-FSU v. CSUB

The leader of this group searching for answers

FSU @ CSUB Preview:

The Fresno State Bulldogs will make the trip south down the 99 Freeway to play new Division 1 entrant the California State University Bakersfield Roadrunners at Rabobank Arena. This will be Bakersfield’s first home game as a division 1 team, and it will be the teams first meeting since 1978.

Fresno State coming in:

The Bulldogs come into Bakersfield winning two of three games in the World Vision Invitational in Fresno, losing in the would-be championship game to San Diego State 89-72. They were never able to find their stride during the tournament and are still looking to define roles and find an adequate rotation, especially in the frontcourt.

The Dogs will also be without forward Rekalin Sims, who was set to play Saturday coming off of an academic suspension. Sims was involved in an incident early Monday morning and arrested on robbery and conspiracy charges. He is suspended indefinitely from the team and will most likely never play a minute for the Bulldogs this season.

The Bulldogs enter with 4 players in double figure scoring led by Senior point guard Kevin Bell (19.3 ppg, 6 apg), Dwight O’Neil (15.7 ppg, 3 rpg, 3 spg), Eddie Miller (13.3 ppg, 50% 3pt) and 6th man Bryan Harvey (11.7 ppg, 3.3 rpg). One issue may be Kevin Bell leading the team in shot attempts. Coach Cleveland alluded to the fact that he didnt like that stat from his distributor, and although he has been effective, its all about shot selection and that must continue to be emphasized.

On the inside, the Dogs have not found much success at all in three games. Senior Hector Hernandez had an abysmal tournament, shooting 27% from the field, and was very disappointed in his own play. He needs to pick things up on both ends of the floor because if he isn’t providing an offensive spark, how many minutes can he get? Sean Taylor has played sparingly and will look for increased minutes where he has two purposes: defense and rebounding. Alex Blair (6 rpg) will continue to get the start.

CSUB coming in:

The Roadrunners enter Saturdays matchup coming off of two losses (92-75 @ CSUF, 94-66 @ SMC). Junior guard Terrence Johns led the way in the first two averaging 22.5 points and 5.5 rebounds. The other two in double-digit scoring is Junior Forward Santwon Latunde (10.5 ppg, 4.5 rpg) and Freshman Center Cory Brown (12.5 ppg, 6.5 rpg).

One issue for the Roadrunners has been their ability to take care of the Basketball. They have 24 assists to 36 turnovers in their 2 games. CSUB is also having to deal with replacing the bulk of their scoring from last season as they lost the top 3 scorers from last years team. This early part of the season will be important for the Roadrunners in establishing who will be the complimentary players to go with Johns and where the secondary scoring will come from.

What to expect from the Dogs:

The Bulldogs will need to establish themselves early, especially this being on the road against a winless, hungry opponent, and an arena full of fans looking for a big upset for this new D1 program. Coach Cleveland will need to have his team on an extremely short leash over the first 3-5 minutes. The opening 3 games for the Dogs have featured slow starts highlighted by stagnant offense, poor shot selection, and an inability for anyone to step up and make a play on the offensive end. They cannot continue to dig themselves a hole every time out.

Another key will be on the defensive end of the floor. CSUB has shown they are turnover prone early in the season. The Bulldogs need to keep the pressure on the perimeter constant to make entry passes that much more difficult. They must continue to work on interior defense and rebounding, this is most important for Hernandez. This may also be a good opportunity to get the Freshman Brandon Webster into the mix. Since Cleveland has decided not to redshirt him, it would make sense to get him 6-8 minutes per game. Also look to see Ned Golubovic get into the mix, he has provided a spark off the bench early in the season and brings a cerebral game with him.

Another facet the Bulldogs need to establish is some scoring while attacking the rim. Bryan Harvey has a tendency for too much east-west dribbling, he needs to turn the corner and get to the rim. Dwight O’Neil will need to do much of the same, but he needs to cut down on his team-high 11 turnovers. Eddie Miller needs to shoot more than 8 shots per game, especially when he is shooting threes at a 50% clip.

This looks to be a good opportunity for the Bulldogs to go on the road and work on defective parts of their game, continue to develop new wrinkles, and to get minutes for young players. Coach Cleveland must take a very cautious approach to the development of his team, this will be an extremely delicate early season for him and one where he earns his money. He is dealing with a team that undoubtedly lacks confidence and is fragile in its mindset.

No comments: